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Forest Fragmentation & Land Degradation
from Marcellus Shale gas production

 

As Marcellus Shale drilling expands in certain areas of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, we begin to get a better look at what that development does to change the natural landscape and continuity of the forests. The USGS released the first of many reports on September 7, 2012, detailing the denigration of two Pennsylvania counties: Bradford County and Washington County. This page will focus on portions of that USGS report along with text, graphics and images from other sources.



 


Reporter Tim Puko in the September 6, 2012 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

"The natural gas boom has disturbed nearly 1 percent of the land in Washington County, according to a federal study. With possibly thousands gas wells on the way, the early data confirmed previous research that found wells, pipelines and access roads for gas could rival or surpass the historic disturbance from other mining and logging industries. Nearly all of the 0.83 percent of land carved up in Washington County came from forest and farmland, according to the report released on Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey."  [Complete story]
 

 
Fragmentation of the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania
Photo: MARCELLUS AIR


"There are over 15,000 oil and gas wells in the Allegheny, more than the other 154 National Forests combined. The Forest Service has been unable to quantify the number of abandoned oil and gas wells that exist on the Allegheny. Over 5,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled since 2000. Oil-related spills and leakage introduce toxins such as benzene, toluene, and xylene into forest streams."
Source: Allegheny Defense Project
 

 


 
Map images and tables shown below are from:
Landscape Consequences of Natural Gas Extraction
in Bradford and Washington Counties, Pennsylvania,
20042010

USGS Report published September 5, 2012
Webpage          PDF - 3.21MB

 
 
LAND DISTURBANCE

Source: USGS
 

The ills of forest fragmentation include loss of wildlife and plant habitat, decrease in biodiversity, and loss of recreational opportunity. With all of the pressure weighing against it, fragmentation seems like a lost cause. However, policy makers and researchers have discovered some preventative measures that seem to lower the effects of fragmentation on our nation's land base. Land use planning is one of the main tools being suggested to help control forest fragmentation.
Source: Sustainable Forests Partnership

 

AMOUNT OF LANDSCAPE DISTURBANCE FOR NATURAL GAS EXTRACTION DEVELOPMENT AND INFRASTRUCTURE

Source: USGS
 
 
Washington County impoundment dam

WASHINGTON COUNTY IMPOUNDMENT DAM
The USGS table above lists 159 impoundments in Washington
County and 682 impoundments in Bradford County, Pa.
Photo: MARCELLUS AIR

 
 
CHANGE IN PERCENT INTERIOR FOREST BY WATERSHED

Source: USGS
 

Forest fragmentation affects the common person in ways which might go unnoticed in day to day life but have a severe impact over a lifetime. Fragmentation is a result of a society which has no consideration for the next generation, but is centered on bigger and better development for the present. Land is a precious resource, one which cannot be re-created. With an expanding population, the demand on this land will continue to increase, however, it is up to us now to recognize its importance and contribution to our standard of living and preserve it as such.
Source: Sustainable Forests Partnership

 

CHANGE IN PERCENT FOREST

Source: USGS
 
 
Forest fragmentation from drilling
Dramatic changes near Republic, Pa from Marcellus drilling
Photo: MARCELLUS AIR
 
 
CHANGE IN PERCENT OF EDGE FOREST BY WATERSHED

Source: USGS
 

The issues that we believe are most important for fish and wildlife are habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and degradation, the introduction of invasive species, mortality from construction and chemical exposure, disturbance from noise, construction, truck traffic, and lighting, and water associated impacts. This would include water use and withdrawal, change in surface water quality and quantity, surface flows, potential for spills and contamination of groundwater, and the proper treatment and disposal of drilling fluids, including water and associated drilling chemicals.
Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - NY

 

FOREST FRAGMENTATION METRICS

Source: USGS
 
 
 
VIOLATIONS
This report only covers a 6 month period at the beginning of 2010

Source: Pennsylvania DEP
 
 
HEARINGS, RIGHT-TO-KNOW REQUESTS
AND NEWSPAPER REPORTS

Excerpt from:
HAZARDS POSED BY NATURAL GAS
DRILLING NOT ALWAYS UNDERGROUND
 

by laura legere (staff writer)
TheTimes-Tribune.com
Published: June 21, 2010

Department of Environmental Protection files made available to The Times-Tribune through a Right-to-Know request reveal hundreds of examples of spills at natural gas drilling sites in the state during the last five years, recorded by at least 92 different drilling companies. The documents show that many of the largest operators in the Marcellus Shale have been issued violations for spills that reached waterways, leaking pits that harmed drinking water, or failed pipes that drained into farmers' fields, killing shrubs and trees.

After a Marcellus Shale hearing last week, DEP produced a list for state legislators of 421 violations found by inspectors at Marcellus Shale wells this year through June 4. At least 50 of the violations - recorded by 15 different Marcellus operators - involved a spill to soil or water. Generic descriptions used by the department to characterize the violations make it impossible to determine the exact number of spills.

"It goes from an accident to negligence," DEP Secretary John Hanger said at the hearing, and attributed the problems to "poor management" and "not proper oversight" by the companies. "This industry's got to look in the mirror," he said.

 
 
1,435 VIOLATIONS IN
TWO-AND-ONE-HALF YEARS

Source: The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association
 
 
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